With or without an MBA in a post-pandemic labor market?

article Interview

By David-Sebastian Stein, Managing Partner at Signium - Stein & Partner, for Cariere Magazine

The lack of predictability has always been characteristic of the business environment, but this current crisis has propelled us into the digital future basically overnight, and ideas we thought were far from happening any time soon, rapidly materialised. As economies are reopening and people who could not benefit from remote working are returning to the workplace, chances are high that this new dimension of remote working will persist, however, we do not know yet to what extent. It has been a context that made us notice the pluses, and they were not only related to productivity, we can also track down the positive impact on urban transportation and consumer behaviour.

At the same time, remote working came along with a variety of challenges: how can you engage your employees from a distance, how can you keep them close and motivated, how do you integrate new colleagues in the team?

It’s nothing new that leaders around the world have been challenged by the new context. What is essential for them now and in the times to come is that they must not lack clarity, a long-term vision and capacity to adapt. Having experience in digitalisation and transformation is seen as a big plus and agility has set the tone in terms of expectations related to a true leader’s skills.

Besides this, during the last year, we noticed especially the need for team guidance, communication, coaching, and mentoring skills, and capabilities like leadership, resilience and adaptability. These are indeed one of the most important in an ever-changing and demanding climate. Concurrently, we strongly consider that at the core of successfully navigating through life, both professionally and personally, stands the ability to embrace a growth mindset, curiosity, and an intentional learning.

Further to mention is, that given these new circumstances, management will be more and more measured based on outcome rather than on tasks. This can be surprisingly challenging for many managers as it increases the need for problem solving abilities and the ability to develop new ideas and structures, not just to follow rules and regulations.

Emphasis will be placed more than ever on the importance of recruiting the right person, the selection being based not only on professional and technical components, but also on the personality, motivation and the energy one has in relation to his/her work, as well as the attitude towards those from the team.

As the competitive environment rather increased due to the context of digitalisation and globalisation, we further on strongly recommend keeping up to date with the latest research and its’ application. An MBA is a very useful form of education, as it is rather focused on case studies and the application of theory. MBAs are usually offered to apply theory based on real business cases and the latest research. Therefore, we believe MBA´s will remain essential in order to learn from other examples and to be better equipped for situations that may occur in day-to-day business environments.

The more and more the business context shifts to agile working, it is important to derive actions and solutions on ad-hoc basis. The more examples you have in mind, the more it will help you identify the different options you have and to make the right decisions.

All these points are arguments for an MBA, however, an MBA has two main objectives, which is knowledge on the one side and network on the other. The second part is mainly achieved through group working and helps the cross-cultural inter-action and management capabilities. This is indeed much more difficult to be achieved in a virtual environment and gives a larger minus to the MBAs within the pandemic context. But we have hopes that things will get back to normal, and then, the objectives of an MBA will have the desired effects.

We, at Signium-Stein & Partner, strongly believe that knowledge is key for a successful career and studying can never be wrong. In case you are considered overqualified for a role, it means that you searched in the wrong place.

However, an MBA itself means nothing unless you learned to do something you didn’t know before. An MBA integrates theory and practice and should help you in doing things better than before. However, how much you were able to take out of the education and the doing part lies in the power of each individual.

An MBA is just a certification which gives you certain credentials, however, it should not be the only factor and companies will still evaluate you based on your achievements in life and not in theory. Therefore, it is advisable to be mindful to the internal and external expectations that may arise when holding an MBA, so, setting realistic ones is healthier. It’s not the certificate that helps you get ahead, but the way in which you translate the information and apply it.

As mentioned, the MBA follows two main objectives, which is knowledge on the one side and network on the other. Since the MBA courses moved more and more to the online environment, and the focus shifted to knowledge, it is considerably more difficult for students to create connections. That’s why local providers face more and more competition from globally leading institutions. This increases competition and gives additional benefits to the MBA candidates, at least on the knowledge side. However, the local network, the teamwork and the regionally adjusted know-how, is and will remain important.

Top MBAs remain to be very expensive, and it all comes down to the value it brings. If it’s an individual desire for professional development, mostly the candidate will have to invest himself into the program. If it`s for preparing the candidate to take over larger responsibility, there is a likelihood that the costs will be taken over by the company.

Apart from the financing, the candidate could be supported by the company to have more flexibility in being able to follow an MBA, as following such a program can be very time consuming.